Can you help a couple of friends of mine?

When Big Brother Sergeant First Class CollateralDamage was in the sandbox many friends sent him stuff. On his birthday or Christmas or something he got so many cards that he actually cried. (He does it once a century whether he needs to or not.) I have two buddies currently serving in the George Bush Desert Classic. One is in playing on the course in the mid-east, the other is on the course in the far east. (Full disclosure — one is a buddy of SFC CollateralDamage whom I’ve never met but who he says is really neat despite being a lieutenant.) Both could use some care packages. If you have a moment and would like to help make a soldier cry for a good reason then please post a comment below or drop me an email.

My further thoughts on the topic, below:

IRAQ: My 10 Lessons Learned

1: I can hold my breath for six months. It’s not that hard, really. I just inhaled when my brother shipped out and exhaled again when he returned for R&R. I did it again when he went back until he returned from his tour. This is a convenient literary description of what it felt like – but in my memory it is the literal truth. I know people who’ve done it for 15 months, several times.

2: How to listen to the news. A mental flow chart I followed whenever I encountered any reports about Iraq. An answer of “that’s not my brother” at any step allowed me to return to my daily life.

  • Has somebody died?
  • Iraqi or American?
  • Civilian or military?
  • Was it someone in the Army?
  • What part of the country?
  • Is this near Fallujah?
  • Is it my brother?

When I reached that final question, I felt relieved and then horrible. I knew my reprieve was someone else’s loss.

3: What to send. Batteries. Hot sauce – MRE’s are bland. Hard candy. Chewing tobacco – it’s a form of currency. DVDs. Baby wipes – help people clean off when they’re in the field. My son sent some of his toys and stuffed animals to give to Iraqi kids.

4: What not to send. Don’t send chocolate. It will likely melt during shipping because of the temperatures in Iraq. There have been many reports that the military is trying to develop a chocolate with a higher melting point. Officially you’re not supposed to ship porn, alcohol, and/or anything with pork in it. While there are serious doubts as to whether or not anyone actually checks for these things, people at home disguise them anyway. A friend of my brother’s got some mouthwash in a box from home, screwed the top off and took a swig out of it. He spit it out and said in total surprise, “It’s mouthwash!”

5: Nothing bigger than a shoe box. That’s the optimum size for shipping. Anything bigger than that will take forever to get there. For some reason speed of delivery mattered even when he was going to be there for a year.

6: The USPS is very helpful. When shipping overseas you have to fill out one of two different customs forms depending on the weight of the package. I was always filling out the wrong one. No matter how long the line behind me, when the clerk saw the address on the package he or she invariably said something kind and didn’t mind waiting while I filled out the right one.

7: People are very kind. You send things because there’s nothing else you can do. I asked other people to send things, too. And they did. Lots of things: packages and dozens of birthday and Christmas cards and prayers. Always prayers. You send those, too, because there’s nothing else you can do.

8: I don’t care what you think about the war. Before you tell me that, tell me if you’ve had someone over there. If you know what that constant dread is like or what it’s like to be terrified when the phone rings late at night, then I’ll listen to what you have to say. I’ve disagreed with people who’ve been through this, but I’ve never argued. We have too much in common. It’s irrational, but I think we are the only people who should get to discuss the topic. Anyone else – even the ones who agree with me – I tend to view as a clueless fool.

9: Many people have it worse. And it’s not just the families that have had someone killed or injured. He is my brother but he is Stacy’s husband and my parent’s child. The times they were awake at 3 AM were much darker than the times I was.

10: I am a hypocrite. If truth is the first casualty of war, then the first truth to die is the fact that your opponent is human, too. I passionately believe that all human lives are equal. For the entire year my brother was over there I didn’t care how many Iraqis died or what else happened to them. Now that he is back, I am compassionate again.

Game proves satire is world’s most dangerous marketing strategy

The War on Terror is still terrifying people. And in this specific case I mean the boardgame, not the George Bush Desert Classic. As readers will recall, War on Terror: The Boardgame was released in November of ’06 (though I was reporting on it in July of that year HAH!). The satiric game seems to be what would have happened had Randy Newman designed Risk.

“The ‘War on Terror’ was once just a violent hobby for greedy imperialists. Now, courtesy of TerrorBull Games, it’s also a boardgame! That’s right, now everyone can experience the thrill of waging war on an abstract noun – and liberate the world in the process.”

Components include an Axis of Evil spinner, a balaclava with the word “evil” printed across the forehead and a “Suicide Bomber Gift Certificate,” bearing the legend “thank you for funding the War on Terror.” I really think one of those should be given to every US taxpayer.

While I doubt it’s been a huge seller it has certainly been a PR bonanza for TerrorBull Games — one that just keeps on giving. Initially it was decried by every UK news organization with a slow news day and then banned by the big toy store chain over there. Also the company wasn’t allowed to even rent a booth at the London Toy Fair. More recently the game was cited by the police as evidence that a bunch of UK treehuggers at the Camp for Climate Action had a “sinister weapons cache.”

… on Monday night police found a stash of weapons that included an assortment of knives, a pointed throwing star, shields and chains hidden in trees and undergrowth around the site.

Also seized — and featured prominently in press coverage — was a copy of guess what boardgame? (Note to the UK cops: a throwing star? There is no less dangerous weapon in the world — except to the person using it. The damn things are nearly impossible to throw with any accuracy.)

Now the damn thing is once-again getting banned by stores. According to the game’s publisher:

When Zavvi ordered 5,000 copies of War on Terror, independent publishers, TerrorBull Games, thought their luck had changed. After a year of obstruction and rejection, they finally had a high street outlet. However, the celebrations were short-lived when the games were recalled the very day they went on sale. A Zavvi spokesman strangely claimed that “poor sales” lay behind the same-day recall, but TerrorBull Games suspect differently. Apparently, while many at Zavvi were backing the game, MD, Simon Douglas, was unaware of the deal until the moment he saw War on Terror on the shelves of his own shop. Douglas reportedly “kicked off” and the games were promptly pulled. Zavvi then refused further delivery and became reluctant to pay for games they suddenly decided they didn’t want. A protracted legal battle ensued that, while almost bankrupting TerrorBull Games, ended in victory for TerrorBull as they got to keep half the games as well as getting paid in full.

In order to make more hay from this the company is going to be “giving away over 100 board games on Oxford St in London to draw attention to the fact that no High Street chains will dare sell the game.” Apparently High Street is a big thing over there. It’s so cute when the Brits act like they’re a real country!

One of these days I really want to actually play this thing.

Bush gave up golf for families of Iraq war dead

“I don’t want some mom whose son may have recently died to see the Commander-in-Chief playing golf,” Bush said. “I feel I owe it to the families to be as — to be in solidarity as best as I can with them. And I think playing golf during a war just sends the wrong signal.”

My head hurts from this quote.

Dear George, you want to show solidarity with these families? How about you visit each and every one of them. Maybe explain why neither you nor your children have served in this or any other war. How about adequate funding and administration for the Veterans Administration? How about not being an idiot? How about not starting wars on fictitious grounds?

Good Lord.

McCain? Hillary? Obama?

I’ll take any of them over this fool.

Not Huckabee, though. I can’t live through another administration that views facts as malleable.

Gitmo guards take Lord of the Rings script from inmate

Guards are required to search detainees’ possessions for contraband and seized the box of documents because it contained items Khadr was not permitted to have, including the “Lord of the Rings” script, pictures and Internet news articles, the spokesman, Lt. Col. Ed Bush said.

Dude, you sooooo totally have to read the books.

Prez sez if he were younger he’d go to Afghanistan; an opinion apparently not shared by his daughters

I must say, I’m a little envious. If I were slightly younger and not employed here, I think it would be a fantastic experience to be on the front lines of helping this young democracy succeed… It must be exciting for you … in some ways romantic, in some ways, you know, confronting danger.” — The Clueless One during a video conference with civilian & military personnel who are facing real danger in Afghanistan. At no time did he say, “Dang, I knew I should have gone to Vietnam.”

US interrogators say Starbucks is better than torture

From a Washington Post story:

The Bush administration announced yesterday that it intends to bring capital murder charges against half a dozen men allegedly linked to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, based partly on information the men disclosed to FBI and military questioners without the use of coercive interrogation tactics.

The admissions made by the men — who were given food whenever they were hungry as well as Starbucks coffee at the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba — played a key role in the government’s decision to proceed with the prosecutions, military and law enforcement officials said.

“So which will it be: waterboarding or a venti latte with extra cinnamon on top?”

I want someone to use this in an ad campaign!!!!

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War On Terror brand suffers major setback as UK ends partnership

File under: Declare victory and go home.

The words “war on terror” will no longer be used by the British government to describe attacks on the public, the country’s chief prosecutor said Dec. 27. Sir Ken Macdonald said terrorist fanatics were not soldiers fighting a war but simply members of an aimless “death cult.” The Director of Public Prosecutions said: ‘We resist the language of warfare, and I think the government has moved on this. It no longer uses this sort of language.” … His remarks signal a change in emphasis across Whitehall, where the “war on terror” language has officially been ditched. Officials were concerned it could act as a recruiting tool for Al Qaeda, which is determined to manufacture a battle between Islam and the West.

NO WAR ON TERROR? But what brand will you use to scare the electorate with????

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Maryland opens Homeland Security High School

The comedy of terrors continues…

microphoneJoppatowne High School in Harford County, Maryland, is first in the nation to offer a 75-student magnet program centered on homeland security. The program, called the Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness Magnet Program, focuses on “preparing high school students for careers in disaster response, high-level computer science and law enforcement” and begins in the fall. Students “will be given limited security clearances to enable them to perform internships at nearby Aberdeen Proving Ground, where the military develops and tests conventional and biological weapons.” Selected students will study “public safety, border control, religious ideology, geospatial technology, cybersecurity, and threat identification.”

What’s the school mascot? A microphone? A metal detection wand?

Anyone who plays on the football team is guaranteed a job in the N.E. Patriots front office.

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Oklahoma license plate lets you show your support for the “War Against A Feeling”

licenseOklahoma, the state that was the site of the worst case of domestic terrorism in US history, has a new license plate commemorating the current offensive against a concept. I’m looking forward to the follow up: Tags that show support for the Global War On Extremism, Gen. Petraeus’s current cause celebre. How about one that says “My country invaded Iraq and all I got was this lousy recession”? There’s definitely a market for it. Recent polls show 2/3rds of the people in the US now expect a recession.

U.S. escalates war on concepts: “The enemy is extremism”

pogoIn an interview on NPR Gen. David Petraeus showed that logic is not a required course at the Army War college:

Q: A simple question that many in America are now wrestling with: Who is the enemy and what is the U.S. fighting for?

A: The enemy is extremism, we think, and it is extremism that comes in various forms.

I forget, is it the infantry or the artillery who are trained in extreme combat?

Isn’t moderation the best weapon against extremism? But if you do it too well you run the risk of being extremely moderate.

If the enemy is extremism does this mean we’re about to attack the X Games?

Maybe we could attack marketers who use the word extreme when ever they want to appear “hip” and “down” with the kids these days?

I look forward to the Armed Forces blowing up statues of Sen. Barry Goldwater who famously said that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.

Isn’t going to war a very extreme act?

One definition of extremism is “any political theory favoring immoderate uncompromising policies.” Invade the vice president’s office immediately.

This reminds me of something George Bush the elder said during the first Iraq contretemps: “We are fighting to prove that might does not make right.”

The war on extremism makes the war on terror look good.

White House hopes Muslims will take Sesame Street to U.S.

elmo camoThe Administration is sending Elmo & Ernie to Malaysia in an attempt to recover brand equity lost by the George Bush Desert Classic.

The local version of the children’s show, called “Jalan Sesama,” which translates directly as Everyone’s Street, is beginning production in Jakarta and expected to air later this year after contracts with Indonesian stations are secured. The U.S. Agency for International Development had earlier set aside $8.5 million for 156 episodes, part of $157 million pledged in 2003 by the Bush administration for education in Indonesia, which Washington regards as a key voice of moderation and democracy in the Muslim world.

In addition to Tantan, an orangutuan, and Jabrik, a baby rhino, the show features “Momon, a 5-year-old boy who likes math and drawing, and Putri, a 3-1/2-year-old girl with a healthy dose of curiosity — [who] bear a closer resemblance to Elmo and Ernie from the original show.” Wonder if the show features a version of Bert, Ernie’s “life partner”?

Herewith the show’s theme song (with apologies to Tom Lehrer):

When someone makes a move
Of which we don’t approve,
Who is it that always intervenes?
U.N. and O.A.S.,
They have their place, I guess,
But first send the Muppets!

We’ll send them all we’ve got,
John Wayne and Randolph Scott,
Remember those exciting fighting scenes?
To the shores of Tripoli,
But not to Mississippoli,

What do we do? We send the Muppets!
For might makes right,
And till they’ve seen the light,
They’ve got to be protected,
All their rights respected,
‘Till somebody we like can be elected.

Members of the corps
All hate the thought of war,
They’d rather kill them off by peaceful means.
Stop calling it aggression,
O we hate that expression.
We only want the world to know
That we support the status quo.
They love us everywhere we go,
So when in doubt,
Send the Muppets!

Army general made captain of The Titanic

Penguins Employee of the monthHabamus War Czar! Gen. Douglas Lute has been named caddy for the George Bush Desert Classic. Going out on a limb here but I don’t think Lute’s name will wind up in the history books next to George C. Marshall or Henry “Old Brains” Halleck — the best that he can hope for is that it doesn’t end up next to Custer’s. Why not take the job? There’s no real downside. The blame has already been laid. They must be rejoicing in Baghdad tonight.

Orlando police nab criminal mastermind for giving to the poor

The Orlando PD — at the instigation of the city council — seems to have found a connection between crime and hungry homeless people. Apparently if you feed them they will turn to crime! Why else did the PD bust Eric Montanez of the charity group Food Not Bombs? Mr. Martinez crime: feeding large groups of destitute people in the city center without a permit.

Under Orlando law (which is being challenged in court by anyone with half a brain) lets charities feed more than 25 people at a time within two miles of Orlando city hall only if they have a special permit. They can get two permits a year.

Because if you feed the homeless, the terrorists win.

Best part of the story are the technical details on Operation What Wouldn’t Jesus Do: Montanez was filmed by undercover officers on Wednesday as he served “30 unidentified persons food from a large pot utilizing a ladle,” according to an arrest affidavit. Police collected a vial of the stew Montanez was serving as evidence.

I wonder how much it has cost the City of Orlando to crack down on this threat to society?

Quote of the day: “The reality is that the stability we thought we saw in the Middle East was a mirage.”

GWB channels his inner Smokey Robinson.

Quicker than I could bat an eye
Seems you were telling me goodbye
Just a minute ago your love was here
All of a sudden it seemed to disappear
Sweetness was only heartache’s camouflage
The love I saw in you was just a mirage

Stability? In the 4000 years of recorded human history no region has been subjected to more wars than the middle east.